April 26th 2020
"Wake Up." –Matthew 26:46
A good friend of mine is having trouble sleeping. In the middle of the night he wakes up thinking about the potential implications of the pandemic. Even in the best of circumstances he’s hardwired to worry—something which makes him brilliant in his line of work. But being alone in his active brain, in the middle of the night, produces abnormal levels of anxiety.
“Instead of worrying,” he shared with me this Sunday morning. “I decided to use the time to write a letter to my children.”
“I know I’m sounding a little morbid,” he confessed. “I don’t think I’ll die from the coronavirus, but I decided to write down everything I’ve wanted to share with them. You can’t necessarily predict the circumstances around your death.”
And so he wrote a beautiful, thoughtful, father-endearing two page email to his four adult children. He encouraged them, confessed some of his failures as a father, shared his favorite memory with each child growing up, expressed his reason for believing in God and gave them some fatherly advice about living in a post-coronavirus world. At 3am, he pressed the send button.
“You need to do it,” he challenged me. “I was surprised by the responses of my kids—and their spouses. It’s been really encouraging and enlightening.”
My friend got me thinking about the importance of last words...and how I can better use this unusual moment to share what I’ve never had time to share.
Years ago I heard a memorable interview on NPR with an aging Holocaust survivor. I forget many details, but my memory has never released her main point. As a preteen girl, she recalled being herded onto a train with other Jewish children. “I was with my younger brother,” she remembered. “He lost one of his shoes in the scuffle. I scolded him.”
A few minutes later brother and sister were separated and sent to different concentration camps, never seeing one another again. “It’s the biggest regret of my life. My last words to my little brother....I reprimanded him over something as inconsequential as a lost shoe.” She concluded, “I’ve tried to live the remainder of my life carefully choosing the words I speak to people—just in case they are my last.” That’s a life lesson.
Do you remember the last words Jesus shared with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane? “Wake Up.” He repeated them twice because his disciples slept through the moment. I’ll concede it was a difficult and confusing moment. I would have done the same. But they missed what was happening. In the words of Jean-Pierre de Caussade, they failed to appreciate “...the sacrament of the moment.” Blaise Pascal echoes those sentiments when he called the disciples' performance the “Gethsemane Sleep”.
I’ve got some homework to do this week. I need to stay awake to the moment, reflect thoughtfully on words I need to share and write a few letters. When completed, I hope to have the courage to press...SEND.